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NYI vs PIT: First Round Recap

April 19, 2019, 12:18 PM ET [507 Comments]
Ben Shelley
New York Islanders Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The New York Islanders weren’t underdogs coming into their first round series against Pittsburgh. That being said, it would be a lie to say there were expectations of sweeping the Penguins, victors of two of the last three Stanley Cups, when it came time for the puck drop in Game 1. Now, the Islanders are moving on to the second round, leaving Sidney Crosby and the Penguins with no playoff wins in a season for the first time since Crosby's rookie year, when the Penguins missed the playoffs altogether.

A lot went into the series going the way it did as well. More than anything, it was a full team effort every game and if the Islanders keep this consistency, they’ll be a very, very difficult team to play against going forward. So what went right?

There weren’t really any signs Jordan Eberle was going to lead the Islanders’ offense throughout the first round of the playoffs. He entered the playoffs coming off of what was the worst season of his career and had drastically underproduced in his 13-game playoff run with Edmonton two years ago. But Eberle was great, coming into the playoffs on the same hot streak he finished the last few games of the regular season with. Four goals and six points in the first round alone is a huge success.

He definitely wasn’t the only forward to step up either. Mathew Barzal stumbled through the final games of the regular season but was a key producer in the first round. You can add Anders Lee, Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson to the list of forwards who were able to drive offense. Then also, Valtteri Filppula, who wouldn't have been considered more than a depth forward coming into the series, was great. Nine of the Islanders’ 12 forwards had at least two points in the series, making for a well-rounded, deep offense.

On the back end, Ryan Pulock, Nick Leddy and Adam Pelech were all counted on in a big way. Pulock averaged almost 23 minutes per game, with Leddy clocking in around 21:23 per game (slightly lower than his regular season TOI) while Pelech was up all the way to 21:35 per game from just 18:38 minutes per game in the regular season. All three ended the series at a plus- three rating.

Lastly and maybe even most importantly, Robin Lehner was nothing short of excellent. Despite the shot count remaining relatively manageable after Game 1, Lehner allowed just one goal in Game 2, Game 3 and Game 4, walking away from the series with a .956 save percentage. It’s been well-documented that Lehner’s performance this season has been a key for the Islanders success but he’s been more consistent than ever through the first four playoff games.

Some other factors that helped the Islanders to success included New York’s penalty kill, which operated at an excellent 90.9% through the first round, killing 10 of Pittsburgh’s 11 power plays.

One more thing that wasn’t talked about as much as maybe it should have was how good of a job the Islanders did giving Sidney Crosby nothing to work with. He had scored 113 in 66 regular season games against the Islanders all-time coming into this series. That’s an absurd statistic. In the first round though? Crosby was a minus-four and was held to one assist and six shots. Was it an off stretch of games for Crosby? Sure. But the Islanders didn’t make things easy on him.

The Islanders worked for what they got in the first round and this same team effort, where everyone is performing as well as they can, could propel the Islanders to a deep playoff run.

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